September 30th, 2010
10:35 PM GMT
Muhammad Yunus is a man on a mission. He's been a banker, an economist, and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. He developed microcredit and microfinance, giving loans to entrepreneurs who are just too poor to be considered for bank financing.
You may have heard about his Grameen Bank. Its founding was what helped him to jointly win the 2006 Nobel Prize.
His most recent book is about what he calls "social business." These are small-scale enterprises run not for profit, but to make an impact. They are different from charities, because they do make a profit; however, that is not their primary purpose. They are meant to be self-sustaining, tax paying, revenue generating enterprises that help fix a social problem.
While on his book tour, I had the chance to talk to him at length about the book, and the role of social business in the global economy.
He is passionate about young people. When he speaks to them at universities he says he finds passion that you can sense he equates with his own. "Young people are not graduating with their job offers in their hands any more. They want to make a difference and they see that making money is not what is important. They want to change the world."
Yunus is sharp as a tack, hopeful, and brimming with enthusiasm for his work. He bristles at any suggestion that social business is too small to make an impact, that it's anti-capitalist, or that it just can't work if owners can't be motivated to take profits from the business. He believes in changing minds.
An early venture in social business involved making fortified yogurt for areas in Bangladesh where most children are malnourished. This small program struggled to succeed in a country without refrigeration and infrastructure to distribute the yogurt. Women were hired to sell the tubs door-to-door, but cultural barriers got in the way. Wheat and milk prices shot up in the U.S., and that raised the price-point of the yogurt, hitting sales hard.
It took time, but the venture is now considered a small success, in a big way.
You can read more about this project and others in his book: "Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism That Serves Humanity's Most Pressing Needs."
And check out our interview. It will make your day.
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